“I struggle to find meaning in working in the City sometimes.”
“I always have the feeling that I could be of so much more value to the world.”
Would it surprise you to know that these heartbreaking words are coming out of the mouths of London’s most “successful” – the bankers, lawyers, consultants and other corporate workers we see roaming around The City?
It’s sad, but true. We know this because we pulled these quotes directly from applications to become a part of our January 2015 intake of The Escape Tribe at The Escape School in London.
It probably goes without saying, but these words are clearly not grounded in love. Quite the opposite. They’re grounded in fear. It’s a universal fear we sense in so many Escape members: fear that our work is meaningless, fear that we’re not living up to our potential, fear that we’re living inauthentic lives.
It’s this fear that keeps thousands of London’s smartest and most ambitious young professionals walking through our doors. They’re coming to us for help. They’re starving for solutions. They yearn to feel inspired and become passionate in their work. But their work, and the organizations within which they work, are failing to deliver.
In the namesake piece of Virgin Unite’s “Language of Love” series, Jim Carroll says that business should make love, not war. Based on the hallowing words we’re hearing from our members at Escape — we couldn’t agree more. But perhaps there’s still room to draw upon warlike metaphors. Not about the competition, our fellow colleagues, or our user acquisition strategy.
Maybe it’s time to turn militant against the problem at work. And right now, the problem is inauthenticity.
The authenticity problem
The problem is that many working professionals feel an acute dissonance between the authenticity of life outside the cubicle and the inauthenticity of life inside it.
Take for example, the so-called “sharing economy.” We now live in a world where buying and selling things directly from our peers has become the norm. We can rent a spare room on Airbnb, catch a ride with an Uber, offer our expert IKEA furniture-making skills through TaskRabbit. We can publish books on Amazon and sell albums on iTunes. We can break news on Twitter.
You and I can do all of these things. We can share our skills, our assets, our unique value with peers more quickly and easier than ever before.
Mix in the global democratization of information and the transparency that social media is enabling, and the concoction of everyday life tastes entirely different than it did when we many of us entered the workplace, or at least when we entered university. Authenticity is our currency now. Yet this authenticity isn’t being adopted by the very establishments and institutions we spend half of our waking hours inside.
This is the crux of the matter. We strive to have little separation between who we are and who shows up to work each morning. We’re having trouble cashing in on our authenticity at work.
The great potential of work
Call us hopeless workplace romantics, but we believe that the act of work – this pouring of ourselves into something, for something, and toward something – is perhaps one of the greatest gifts we have to give here on Earth.
We believe that work and the workplace has the potential to reach this ideal. It’s an ideal that sounds a lot like love – love for the adventure of building a career, love for the challenge of solving difficult problems, love enough for ourselves that we strive to do something that feels meaningful to us, and ideally, to the world.
With work being the thing we spend a majority of our time doing – shouldn’t we be working toward something we deem worthwhile? Something that’s aligned with who we are and how we want to impact the world?
To borrow a phrase from poet Kahlil Gibran, we believe work has the potential to become “love made visible.”
It’s this ideal that will keep us here, slugging away to build The Escape School.
So long as there are smart people who feel they can be adding “so much more value to the world,” we’ll be here, as peers, fighting alongside them.
If you’re serious about making a big, bold change in your career and life, you’re in London (or nearby), and would like to join a small group of people who are also serious about making a change —applications for the January 2015 intake of Tribes @ The Escape School open this week. Express your interest here.
This article originally appeared on Virgin Unite as The potential for work: love made visible.